Saturday, April 9, 2011

How do I know if he's the one?


Dear ESB,

I feel nuts writing to you, but I am desperately in need of some real perspective, and I think you are awesome.

I have been living with my boyfriend for 3 1/2 years. We are not engaged, but we treat each other like life partners, we talk kids, we talk wedding - all in that way like it's so obvious that we're doing those things. We are both broke and don't want to be engaged forever trying to save for a wedding, so we are saving up now and trying to pay off debt. But like I said, we are not *actually* engaged.

Okay, here is my problem. How do you know if someone is *the one*? All of my engaged/married friends say things like "you just know when you know." But, really? Will I "just know"? I have over-thought (i.e. obsessed over) every single major decision I have ever made in my life - from what schools to go to, what to study, what dresses to wear to parties, how to phrase emails (I guess that's not a "major" decision) - you get the idea. I have obsessed over our relationship, but I do not know if he is "the one." Maybe you can help, because I'm not getting any younger here.

BF is sweet and fun. When we go grocery shopping, he always carries all of the groceries, unless it is humanly impossible to do so. He understands me and he is really supportive. I can't imagine living with anyone else. But how do I know if that stuff is real, or if it is just the product of having lived together for so long? Because also when he is angry he slams doors really loudly or hits the wall, which I really, really hate. And he does really annoying impressions - like, the worst. And he always forgets to call me if he is going to get home from work later than usual, or if he decides to have a quick beer with his buddies. The last time we went to visit my parents, he read the paper all through lunch instead of engaging them in conversation. And if suddenly there was a nuclear war, and all of my best girlfriends disappeared, and it was just me and him, I wouldn't be completely happy. He just doesn't fill every need. And our brains do not match up 100%. For example, I always want to talk about why characters in movies do the things they do, and BF just wants to watch the movies and not analyze them. Also, his mom is bat-sh*t crazy, and I am pretty sure I will never feel close to her - aren't you supposed to feel so warm and fuzzy about your FMIL? Aren't you supposed to want to plan the wedding with her? Her taste is the polar opposite of mine. Finally, no one in BF's family has a college degree, and neither does he (but he works in a creative field, so it doesn't really matter), but my family is super degree-oriented. Is that crap important? Does it matter if his parents and mine don't become friends? Aren't we supposed to come from the same town, and have gone to the same schools, and our parents supposed to be in bridge club together? That is how all my friends' relationships are and they all seem really happy. I just don't know.

I'm sure I sound super annoying, but can you give me a hit of obvious? Am I in one of those relationships where people from the outside go "what are they thinking?" I just really don't want to be wasting our time. If this clearly isn't going to work, I want to cut and run so that I can start looking for that effing "you just know when you know" guy.

- Crazytown

P.S. I also have just started Law School after years and years in the working world, so that is not helping.


*****

No single item on your laundry list sounds like a deal-breaker.

But the fact that you've MADE a laundry list makes me think you don't really want to marry this guy.

(Photo by Terry Tsilois for Muse 2010 via Vain and Vapid)

64 comments:

  1. Carrying groceries does not a marriage make.
    "Forgetting" to call? Yeah, right.

    ESB is right .... making a laundry list (especially this manic one) is a big red flag.

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  2. Yeah, so does sending the laundry list in to ESP asking for a "hit of obvious." You sound like you're just asking for permission to cut and run.

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  3. I don't think that questionning things, when you know that you are the kind of person who DOES question things, necessarily means that there is anything wrong with your relationship. I also don't really buy the whole "You just know" thing - stinks a bit like BS to me.

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  4. In my experience (and I have been divorced once, and now happily re-married), when you have to over-analyze the relationship to see if you want to marry someone, you probably shouldn't. Go with your gut.

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  5. Just to clarify one thing, dear Crazytown, one should never expect to have a fantastic relationship with their FMIL - especially while planning a wedding. Exhibit A: http://www.eastsidebride.com/2010/11/dear-esb-should-i-scrap-my-lovely.html

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  6. and Exhibit B: http://www.eastsidebride.com/2011/01/what-do-i-wear-to-get-married-on-roof.html

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  7. the fact that you wrote this: "if suddenly there was a nuclear war, and all of my best girlfriends disappeared, and it was just me and him, I wouldn't be completely happy" pretty much answers your question. at least in my opinion, in a marriage you should be happy with just him as certainly there will be many times when it is just the two of you I think you need to think about what really will make you happy and stop worrying about the what you feel like a relationship is "supposed" to be.

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  8. Maybe a better question to ask yourself is, Do I want this guy to be the father of my children? This is assuming you want kids, of course, but I find that thinking this is a better way to gauge how you actually feel about someone.

    Also, I tend to give props to things like automatically carrying groceries, so he scores points on that one, but the anger thing seems like it could be serious. Has is gotten better or worse over time? Have you even talked to him about it?

    As for the rest (and I COMPLETELY understand about the college vs no college thing...been there), I think most of it can be dealt with easily if you both are in love and share the same values....but this means that stuff no longer bothers you - like: I don't care that my FH doesn't like the same bands as me, why should that matter?...when it used to be priority #1. (silly example, I know)

    A word of advice on the grad school bit though: Shit is going to get insane. You are going to need to be a lot more selfish than you were in college about your time. If he (or anyone) can put up with you and be a source of comfort to you when you want to poke your eyes out then that's a good sign. If not, well...you will know what to do. And don't let your age ruin your happiness....for the record I am one of the people 'that just knew', but at age 32, and with someone who completely surprised me.

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  9. Like others have said, you just know. You never question is this the guy for me, that shouldn`t even pass through your mind. Everything just feels natural and right and you live your life the way you want and all feels like a dream.

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  10. Offering a slightly different perspective: In my opinion, the butterflies-in-my-stomach, I-just-knew, gut-instinct, he/she's-the-one statements that are bandied about like they're the end-all-be-all to deciding on a long-term relationship are bullshit.

    What's important is a mutually caring, equal partnership in which all parties contribute and compromise. It's not something that just happens, it's not something you just 'find', it takes a hell of a lot of work, commitment, and communication.

    So, if you've had frank discussions about these (fairly major) things that concern you and he still hasn't changed, compromised, or made an effort, it's time to cut your losses. It's time to look for someone who's willing to put in the work to have a healthy and equal relationship.

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  11. Yeah...I don't know about that you just know crap. My FH and I drive each other CRAZY sometimes, but that how I know it's real, that's how I know we care.

    Also, a couple years ago, I came up with a similar laundry list, but you know what I realized: There is no PERFECT guy, no PERFECT relationship. There is no one out there that you are going to mind meld with perfectly, and no one is going to fill your every need. You can drive yourself crazy looking, or you can be honest with yourself and with your life. You can say, yes yes, he hates dancing and I love eating in bed and he hates the crumbs, but is he kind? Do you laugh more than you cry? And when you do cry, does he hold you and do anything to make it better?

    In the end, it doesn't matter if you came from the same town, if his mom drives you crazy, if he doesn't analyze movies with you. It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks about or wants from your relationship. What matters is when you see yourself all old and wrinkly, is he the one you want holding your hand?

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  12. I agree that the fact that you've made up this list says a lot, but there's one thing that I had to say. Almost no one's brains match up 100% 24/7. It's a myth. You should have different interests and hobbies, because what makes you different is what makes a relationship work. I would hop you wouldn't be happy if your world contained just you and him, that's a really small and limiting world in which to be.
    On the "you just know" thing; that reeks of a history re-write. Some people do, but relationships are work, so even if they did hope that this person would be their forever someone, there was a lot of work between point A and point B; it's simply not that simple. Maybe find a coupled-up friend who's willing to cut the b.s. one night after a glass or two of wine, and she/he can tell you what happened for them.
    The M-I-L issue--NO. You do not have to become that woman's best friend. I have friends in relationships where they love love love their M-I-L, and I also have very good friends in good marriages who put up with the M-I-L by the skin of their teeth. It's just like your own family, you love them, but you don't have to like them all the time.
    You sound like most of the people you know married pretty young, which is not in itself bad, but may have given you some ideas about how this is supposed to go down. You don't always marry the high-school or college sweetheart. You don't always marry someone your parents know. And it's not part of the deal to make your parents and in-laws friends, they're grown-ups, they don't need a play-date. You want them to be happy for you and respect each other, and that's all they're obliged to do. An again, just because relationships seem perfect from the outside, it doesn't mean that a good bit of work doesn't go into them every day, marriage is like a job like that, you commit to make it keep working.
    There may be a "you just know" guy out there for you, but maybe not. It sounds like you're tied up in this idea of what a relationship is supposed to be and how it's supposed to happen, and I think that's the doubtful part. Talk to him about the things that make you feel certain ways, tell him that him forgetting to call bothers you. But also understand, he is not your friends' husbands, he is himself, and that is part of what you are in love with. If you want to talk during movies, find a gf to go with, or make him a deal that you'll only do it every so often, and he'll talk with you.
    It is crap that one person is supposed to be our whole life and no one else is needed. He should be your rock, and your biggest cheerleader, and your lover, but it's ok if you like mayo and he doesn't, or he likes rom-coms and you like action movies. And if differences like that are why you're writing, then I think you've answered your own question about whether to get married.

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  13. My boy is French and I am Scottish so 1. kinda blows your "growing up together" thing to shit (do you watch too many films, btw?) 2. neither set of parent's speak the other's language so no chance of parents being bff either and 3. when we're visiting his maman and papa for a long time (>10 days*) it's hard. Really hard. Especially since it's in the middle of effing nowhere, all his friends have left, nobody speaks English and I don't like speaking French outside of his family. Oh, and I'm a vegetarian! Sometimes I feel like a total alien and he's my only company but you know what? That's enough. As long as we're together I'm happy. Even when I'm being a total bitch (hunger makes me angry and irrational) he's an amazeballs boyfriend.

    I'm a chronic over-thinker/obsessive too, but I know he's the one for me (hate that phrase btw) because when I doubt our future I have a huge long list of the reasons he's the best ever and that calms me down. So there you go.

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  14. Seriously, maybe you need to stop thinking about what your relationship is "supposed" to be like.

    If it's in any way reassuring, I have never been 100% sure about anything and I don't mind admitting that I felt the same about my (now) husband, especially when we first talked about marriage - other people might feel absolutely certain about things but I know that I probably never will. What I realised (with the help of an awesome post on apracticalwedding dot com, actually) is that my insecurity had nothing to do with him, it was me. I am so pleased that I didn't let my niggling insecurities and inability to ever be certain stop me from marrying my aweseome man (who also always carries the shopping BTW).

    "The Perfect Relationship" doesn't actually exist. Why are we still perpetuating that shit? It is damaging to everyone to continue with that myth but especially to those of us who have problems with ever trusting our own judgent. I'm not saying that your relationship is fine, I don't know you, how do I know? But I am saying that in my opinion some of that stuff you're worrying about just does not matter.

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  15. Yeah, I'd say if you can send a list of his flaws to a perfect stranger, he's not your One

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  16. Wow, Crazytown. Go take a vacation. By yourself. Stop thinking forjustasec. Then come home and be with him. See if that works. Because? Brains don't match 100%, but, um, do anyone's? Because you didn't grow up with each other, but there are a bajillion people on earth. Would that really be all that thrilling if it were so cut and dry? Seriously. Aussie wouldn't make me completely happy if all my friends disappeared ... but I wouldn't want him to. THAT'S WHY I HAVE FRIENDS. To have different relationships.

    Go away. Go do something for you. Don't think about it for a minute. Because over-analyzing is death.

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  17. "You just know" = bullshit, but not really in the way you might think. Maybe you just know at some point that he's the one, maybe you don't, but I think it's possible that you won't ALWAYS know. Sometimes things will happen to make you question your relationship, even if it's one that you want and intend to be in for the rest of your life. But in this case I agree with ESB about the laundry list. And I agree with one of the Anons about grad school being a good test of the relationship. If you make it through law school and you're still with him, I'd say he's the one.

    And all this "supposed to" crap? It's crap, so quit it. "Supposed to" and "should" will do nothing but make you crazy, and not at all in a happy way.

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  18. tiebreaker: does he wear sandals?

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  19. By comparing your relationship to other peeps, you're creating unnecessary doubt for yourself. Stop worrying about THEM, and ask yourself if you're happy and if HE makes you happy. Could you live without him, just as happily? Do you love him?

    The reasons you listed as negatives about your relationship sound like regular ol' things to me. EVERY relationship has those things- especially after living together for a while. Like, my husband eats food really annoyingly. I am sure I do things that annoy him as well.

    But both of us acknowledge that we are easily annoyed by people {really- we love all our friends and fam dearly, but they all do shit that annoys us}. But my husband is the one person in this whole world who annoys me the least, and the same goes for him with me. ;) Get used to being annoyed from time to time- that's life with other people in it.

    Seriously, you need to tune out these other folks and focus on you and your man for a month and THEN ask yourself some serious questions, without any comparisons to anyone else getting in the way of your honest thoughts and feelings.

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  20. so...seems like making a list does say something, but what it says is more about the way you're viewing the relationship than about the guy himself and whether he's the right one. if you're of the mind that there is someone still out there who will annoy you less, then you will find something in the interests, habits, and tics of your current guy to be annoyed by.

    i was there, some years ago, with a sweet, dear boy i'd dated for four years, starting in high school. now, looking back, i believe the real issue was my need to know myself as an adult on my own. i wasn't ready. but i told myself he had all these characteristics that were incompatible with me.

    now, several years on, i found a guy (a different one) who is not perfect, but who loves me, supports me, and cares for me as an equal and a friend. we're together on most big worldview and goals, and the day to day living stuff, but not every single last thing. and i know that's ok. happily newly married, going strong for longer than the first relationship.

    i suppose my own little epiphany was that i view my partner through the lens of myself. he is not some reified thing, fully apart from me, objectively right or wrong regardless of the circumstances.

    postscript: the way my husband chews annoys me more when i've had a hard day at work or in the week before my period. true story.

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  21. The thing about being with someone you love is that you are with someone whos flaws you know all too well and you still feel inclined to choose to be with them. You make the choice to stay with them every day not in spite of those flaws but because of them. When they piss you off you choose patience when you piss them off, you choose to be humble and say 'I'm sorry'. That's why it means so much when people stay together for years and years- they're saying, out of all the what ifs that may be out there, I choose you. Every day. (I think I may have heard that in a movie but hey, it resounded with me!)
    This situation you're in sounds like I could have written it a bunch of years back when I was with Mr. Wrong. Trust your instinct- that's what I learned. Its not that I never doubt my FH now but, when I do have doubt, the list of why I'm in pops into my head, not the list of why I should get out.
    p.s. I do think it matters that your brains and tastes match because that what makes us individuals and if that's not matching up, well then...

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  22. This:
    http://apracticalwedding.com/2011/02/wedding-graduates-sarah-wes/

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  23. I'm an over-analyser and I don't think just making this list means that you shouldn't marry this guy. I also wouldn't be happy if nuclear war wiped out my other friends and left me alone with my husband. We're great companions and are very happy together, but there's no way that he fulfills all the needs that our friends do. I'm a sociable person, and I don't think that any one person could engage me in all the ways that I want to engage. Our brains don't "match up," in fact, we're totally different, but we make each other laugh, we're comfortable with each other, we respect each other, and I think he's totally groovy. That's what matters.

    I echo what everyone else says about not listening to "supposed to" in your mind. I totally get where you're coming from, but every relationship is different. Just focus on how you feel, and if you feel right, go with it. If you feel wrong, talk to your boyfriend, or don't be with him. Don't ask yourself whether what you feel is right or wrong, which is the mistake I always make - just accept it and be happy in your life!

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  24. Does he make you laugh? You haven't listed anything you like about him other than carrying groceries.

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  25. Crazytown,
    You wrote "He just doesn't fill every need." And I need to take a moment to ask you to look at that expectation. Regardless of what you decide about Mr. Carries-the-Groceries, please know that no one person can be everything to another person. Expectations like that are not healthy or productive.
    As many people have already said, focusing on what you are "supposed to feel" or what your relationship "should be like" is also counterproductive. Your relationship is your relationship. It's not mine, and it's not ESB's or anyone else's. If it mostly works for you, and (more importantly) if you both want to continue to do your part to make it work, mazel tov! You've found something special (whether or not you decide to marry the guy in the end.)

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  26. I'll keep my two cents short:
    1. FMIL is a non issue. Never a reason to marry or not.
    2. Consider how he treats others not you - friends, mother, strangers etc. These actions are a better indicator of who he is as a person.
    3. Marriage is a choice. Love is a choice.

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  27. I used to always think there was a 'one' - the dream ingrained in us as little girls watching Disney movies. I am deeply in love with my boyfriend, but I also know that it's a choice. I choose to accept his love and his annoying habits all the same. The best advice I can give is acceptance. Accept him for exactly who he is and decide if that's someone you want to spend your life with. If you have any hopes that he will become a different man, you have to let go of those. In other words, don't be in love with the person that he could be - that guy will only break your heart.

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  28. Dude, I was like you in my last relationship. The analyzing almost drove me certifiably *insane* and after getting out, it was such a relief (after months of analyzing the break up HA). Now I'm engaged to a wonderful man and guess what - he's 11 years older than me, he's from Argentina (i'm from England) and I don't speak Spanish. So being best mates with his Mum and growing up together are out of the question, but I've never once analyzed my decision to be with him - even with the 11yr gap! Because he's perfect for *me*. Probably not for someone else, but we fit and that's what matters - don't compare yourself to everyone else's relationships, things are never how the seem from the outside. Good luck.

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  29. I think that because you are asking the "buying" questions - the tough, hard look questions - you are in. You love this guy, even though. ESB posted a while ago about this - the girl was trying to convince herself to be in love. You aren't doing that. You are pointing out his flaws, and you still love him. This is good. Also, if all your needs were fulfilled by one person you would need to go to CODA (Co-Dependents Anon), because ferreal that's not possible.
    Here's my best gf advice, in case you are reading all of these!:
    Spend a week alone, with no TV, no radio, no phone (as much as possible), no girlfriends voices, no opinions, and cultivate inner silence. You just have to, even with the law school thing - it's that important. It worked for me.

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  30. OH...PS. the book, "Love in the Present Tense" helped clarify the values question for both of us. My GF read it and knew immediately her relationship was headed for divorce. I read it with my HTB and we grew closer. It's great for analytic minds.

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  31. I, for one, don't think making a list indicates a problem with the relationship necessarily. Obviously if you are going into law, you are an incredibly detailed, meticulous person by nature.

    Can you imagine your life without him? Does he stimulate you intellectually? Is he considerate of your feelings and dreams? All things missing from your list... that seem important to think about in my opinion.

    I don't think you "just know" - that to me is immature: you are an adult, you should be able to articulate your feelings. I think it is healthy that you have girlfriends that fill different voids in your life - it is UNhealthy to think that a man can be your "everything". Regardless, only you know if you could stand to grow old with out him - statistically speaking 1/2 of the posters on this blog will end up divorced, so who the fuck really knows besides you.

    P.S. Fuck your in-laws: you don't need to like them, and they don't need to be friends with your parents.

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  32. I'm with some of the others: just because you're asking the questions, does NOT mean the relationship is doomed! I can't even believe that some would suggest this. Everyone comes to decisions in different ways. Some people always "just know." Some, like Crazytown and me, question everything, make a pro-con list, survey friends, and then still doubt, doubt, doubt.

    Please read this post over at APW: http://apracticalwedding.com/2010/08/weddings-marriage-love-anxiety/

    I'll also say that in divorce court, I bet there are just as many people who had inklings of doubt before marriage as there are those who "beyond a doubt knew, just KNEW this person was THE ONE!" For some, the doubt was there and it didn't work out. Others just never dream that their relationships will end. I'm not sure questioning itself is a very good predictor of relationship success.

    Again, to echo what everyone else said, no one person will make you 100% happy 100% of the time. It's a dangerous myth that our partners should be 100% similar to us. Sometimes, our partners do annoying or enraging things. Sometimes, they are jerks who don't meet our needs. It's when the good ceases to balance out these bad moments that you need to ask yourself whether this relationship is still worth it for YOU (i.e. not your friends, in-laws, etc.)

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  33. Hi,
    I know this line of questioning can lead to so much heartache, because so much of what we see of love is of the "you'll just know"/rom-com stuff that doesn't hold true for everyone. Please do yourself a favour and put that out of your head.

    The biggest red flag is, obviously, the hitting. I know hitting the wall isn't the same as hitting *you,* but folks who use the threat of personal violence when upset or angry have issues. In order to be considered "marriage material," he's got to work that out.

    The lesser stuff can be just as confusing, though. So ask yourself: would he pick you up if you barfed at work? Does he ever make you laugh so hard you cry? Would he get up in the night if the baby was crying? Does your time with him make you feel smart, funny, loved, cared for? Those are the questions you should ask, not whether or not you'll get along with his mom.

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  34. What is with the "I like to analyse characters in movies and he doesn't"? You're super nitpicking now!
    How about waiting a little longer? You don't have to marry this guy right away...

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  35. I have an 84 year old aunt, who is extremely educated and has lived all over the world. She worked for the American Embassy in London and met her long time husband there after WWII. Her husband (my uncle) died 7 years ago. She said that right before she walked down the aisle to get married, she thought to herself, if it doesn't work out I'll get a divorce. An extremely progressive thought for a woman during that time. She speaks of her late husband all the time, and says it was the best decision she ever made. My point I guess, is that nothing lasts forever. Enjoy your relationship, and if you end up not enjoying it at some point deal with it then.

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  36. I'm getting married in June to the man I've been with for five years. I've been back and forth over the "is he the one?" question myself because we are both strong willed opinionated people and we often butt heads over things. What makes me certain that we're in it for the long haul is our ability to resolve conflict without damaging the other person. Even though he's a bossy, bull-headed lug, he's the first man that has ever said to me "You're right, I'll work on it". We may have disagreements but afterward we're able to come together and talk about it and each of us take responsibility for our part. We have both grown a great deal in our relationship and feel like we are both better people because of it. No relationship is perfect and I would feel suspect of any situation that is just too easy. It's a partnership where both people are working to build and preserve something together. Communication is key. Taking responsibility for your own faults while standing up for yourself and your boundaries is also very important. Conflict is not a bad thing if it is actually resolving something in the end. I would say the real key to a happy marriage is being able to work together to solve problems without tearing each other apart. You also have to be able to look at your partner and realize this is who this person is. You have to be able to love the good stuff along with the stuff you're not so crazy about. I once heard a quote that said "Love is loving someone for everything they are, and everything they're not". If you can't accept the whole package, turn the guy loose so he can find someone who does.

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  37. I think the problem here is that you are overthinking him. There is no "Right" choice if you mean by that the (objectively) "Right" man. There is a right choice for you, but for that you'd have to give us a laundry list of you. What do you like? What do you care about? What's a dealbreaker FOR YOU? For me personally, hitting the wall when angry would be pretty miserable. Not talking about characters would be kind of lonely, because I like that. etc. You know what I mean? Figure out what you like, and then take it to him. He'll let you know what he wants to change and what he doesn't. Take it from there. I think people can and do change/grow, so some of these things might be things he could develop or alter *if he wants to*. Good luck!

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  38. I think if you aren't 100% confident then you should NOT marry him. And for the record, I never understood the whole, "when you know, you know" thing until it happened to me one day. Now I understand it completely and really believe that you should feel sure.

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  39. Yeah, sounds like you need some time to yourself to think about your life. Imagine him not in it. Are ya heartbroken or better off? Seems like you're putting too much pressure on the whole typical movie expectations of "when you know, you know".

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  40. Hey Crazytown - I wouldn't be worried that you've made a list of your guy's flaws. I think the fact that you made a list merely means that you're a list-making kind of gal (I am too!), not that it's some sort of Evil Omen of Your Relationship Being Wrongggg.

    Also, someone said there must be something wrong because you shared said list with strangers. Um, strangers are exactly the people I dish all of my secrets to, all the time. Because my friends and family have vested interests in me and my guy, it's a lot easier to get my thoughts out to random people who are in no way affected by my rambling trains of thought.

    My main concern for you is that you're reading all of these comments. Get all of our voices out of your head, right now. Including mine. Everyone experiences life differently, everyone experiences love differently. "Just knowing" does happen to some people, some of the time. But it's not a necessary condition for a happy life or real love. Love is a growing thing, it doesn't always just slap you right away.

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  41. Allow me to quote Dan Savage..."There is no 'one.' There's a .64, and maybe if you're lucky a .67 that you round up to one."

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  42. It isn't a pluses and minuses equation. It isn't if there is a nuclear war and he's the only person left on earth will you feel equally happy (umm, in what universe do we expect one person surviving to make nuclear fallout ok? Don't put that burden on anyone.). It isn't about sharing a brain. That's actually boring, and I think it's nice if you can have different space--like if you're the academic one and he's the creative one you don't compete with each other in those areas.

    And do not worry about the parent stuff. Your parents do not have to be friends or even like each other or even really do anything more than be capable of being polite at occasional family gatherings. You need to be able to tolerate his family, but you don't need to feel close them. Honestly, most people are not super close to their in-laws.

    But. If you want to marry this guy, the stuff that matters is more about the every day, the living together, the enjoying each other's company. At the end of the day, is this a person you want to come home to? Does he do the dishes (or whatever chores you really can't stand). Does he make you feel loved? Does he pay whatever bills he's responsible for on time? Does he treat wait staff with respect? Is he willing to talk to you about the punching the wall stuff and maybe work on stopping it? Are you willing to work on whatever habits you have that annoy him?

    He may or may not be someone you want to marry. You have to figure that out for yourself. You have to figure out if the thought of breaking up and moving on to an unknowable future is more appealing than the thought of waking up next to this guy every morning for the rest of your life. When you know the answer to that question, you know the answer to the marriage question.

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  43. I love my boyfriend to pieces. I think I will probably marry him some day. But this weekend? When I was PMSing and he had this big test he was cranky about, and then he woke me up in the middle of the night with his stupid night mumbles and middle of the bed stealing? I could have choked him. Doesn't make the love stuff less real. Just makes it love in real life.

    I think there are some things to think about when you consider getting married. Is he your first serious boyfriend? The first one you have been with for years plural, the first one you have lived with? Also have you lived on your own after high school or college?

    If you have had one or more boyfriends for 2 or more years, or were ready to marry someone else who broke your heart/ if you have lived with someone else, and lived on your own, then you already have a good idea of what adult relationships feel like. In that case I think you can mourn the difference between real love and movie love and move on, with your uncertainty and love.

    But if you really have only been with him, and you feel pressure because your friends are getting married and you guys have been together a long time and live together...that's a different scene. For me, even if my first serious boyfriend that I lived with had been a perfect partner, I don't think I could have lived with the doubt I had about what else was out there, because it would have been the wrong time in my life to be married. I had to go look around to figure out who I was and what I wanted for my own life.

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  44. no one person will be able to full fill all of your needs. no one is perfect; no husband, no parent NO ONE. we all fall short of expectations, we all love in an imperfect nature. but that's relationships. you take the shit with the good. think long and hard, make an educated decision. ask a good girlfriend. none of us know you or your relationships, but i can say that no relationship is perfect and the whole "The ONE" thing is just BS. don't settle, and cut it off now if you're not happy, but don't put expectations on him or yourself to have everything be perfection. love him with grace.

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  45. if you look at your life, and you can imagine him not being in it, then he's probably not "the one". i don't believe in soul mates, or matching up perfectly, but i do 100% believe that if i were to lose my current fiance, i would be absolutely beyond devastated. he makes me want to be a better person, and hopefully, i do the same for him. i'm not so sure you feel the same.

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  46. ONE time i started to mentally make a laundry list. "Can I live with these things forever?" was my thought process...until the thought crossed after item #1, so what would we do, break up? my NEVER teary eyes swelled up and i couldn't breathe...i couldn't imagine life without him...now everytime i think "what if we weren't together" in some weird day i lose it just a bit...everything falls and i want to just hug him and kiss him and never let go kind of thing...not puppy love...but the feeling accounts for something, you know? the commitment is what keeps me with him even on days when i say "DAMN YOU!" to everything he does...but the feeling let me know it was the right thing, you know?

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  47. There are weekends that go by (like this past one) where my husband and I don't go out with friends, don't see family....we just hang out with each other.....and almost don't even realize we've been isolated until the weekend is over. We're not tired of each other because he's my best friend. We're building a home, a life and a family together. If you don't feel like he's your teammate then he's not the one for you. You shouldn't expect him to fulfill your every need, but like ESB said....making the list makes me think you don't want to marry this guy.

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  48. To reiterate what some others have said: check out the APW post on doubt.

    (http://apracticalwedding.com/2010/08/weddings-marriage-love-anxiety/

    Also: in my view the whole bit about THE ONE and JUST KNOWING is bullshit. As a nerdy scholar, I can tell you exactly when and where those ideas appeared. (Hint: not at the dawn of humanity). They are cultural constructs, not eternal realities.

    HOWEVER some people are good at feeling certain, and those people might have the experience of JUST KNOWING because they believe that stuff happens. And more power to them I say! (Though I'm not sure it makes them less likely to get divorced than the rest of us). I myself am a fearful and bookish doubter, so I have never and will never have that experience. My man and I got married even though both of us scoff at the whole THE ONE idea. We are happy that we did.

    I saw one of those cheesy wedding write-ups in the NYT once that articulated a nice sentiment about this; the minister marrying the couple said to them during the ceremony: "Love is a choice. So choose to love."

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  49. Some people will "just know" and some people will never know for 100% certainty.

    You've been living together for 3.5 years and you still like each other, and that says something.

    Read the APW post mentioned above, and if all else fails, I totally endorse Lauren's tie breaker.

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  50. As a fellow 1L (with an awesome boyfriend of 4+ years), I can truly say that this first year in a law school is a serious test to relationships. School is so stressful and irritating, it's hard to be rational with the other great people in your life. Believe me. I have moments where I want to punch him in the balls (awkwardly too violent? my b.) for something so minor as leaving enough cereal in the box for me.

    I think making a decision this early in your law school career might be a mistake. 1L is just the worst! I would wait at least through this summer and if you still think he's not your favorite person in the world to be with- THEN maybe it's time to cut and run . But otherwise, I would try to accept this time in your life (in law school) is unlike any other. The stress is on a deeper, subconscious level. Things you wouldn't otherwise pick at just itch.

    And one great reason I know there's hope: a friend (who I met through my bf) and a recent law school grad briefly began to date her current husband her 1L year. Broke up with him because she didn't have the patience or time to deal with him. A few months later she realized what an amazing person he was. I went to their wedding last summer, and I can truly say that seeing their love like that was just beautiful.

    Moral of the story. Stick out a little longer. 1L stress f's with your brain.

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  51. what T-bone said. also, if you have good communication, you should be able to bring up the things that matter (like him reading a newspaper during dinner with your family, wtf?) and have a discussion. If he can communicate properly, and so can you, then that's a team right there. If something like that bothers you (which it seems to), then you should be able to talk about it. If he blows you off or refuses to discuss, then there are some serious issues to be worked out between the two of you. Mutual respect is a must.

    Love and marriage are choices made by two people. With the right person, you feel like a team. And that is so, so vitally important. Don't make any major decisions right now. To whoever commented above saying that you should take some time alone, I second that.

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  52. That law school bit at the end compelled me to comment: Coming from a lawyer (A baby one, working at a brand new legal job with brand new student loans to pay...) I met my absolute favorite person in the world while in law school (my FH).... But here's the thing.. If you aren't meant to be, F*k your stupid laundry list, bc Law school will break you up. It's the most miserable 3 years you'll probably ever spend, (totally do-able, yes, you're not like, curing cancer or anything, but it's boring as hell and a lot of work)... POINT BEING -- If you aren't with someone that makes you crazy happy, the bad times are probably going to do your dirty work for you.

    So relax! By the end of your first semester you'll be taking that Civ. Pro. Final with a side of break-up sauce, just like the rest of us did... Or you and your bf will be togeth. forev. .. Either way.

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  53. Oh lord. I am having a very similar issue right now, only complicated because we ARE engaged and we have a 3 year old daughter. My parents ( who are the most supportive people in the world) just let me know that they have a spare bedroom and daycare set up if I want to leave him and go back to college. He is not supportive of me in the way I need to be supported. Financially, it's always separate, and everything must be halved. Though his half is far superior to mine. He is lovely, and a wonderful father and...I am...having a hard time right now.

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  54. Just want to say your brains don't have to be 100% alike, and stressing about decisions like this doesn't mean he's not "The One". Personally, I am all about finding a therapist and figuring shit like this out. You'll learn a lot about yourself and why you're reacting to different things. For me it was a life-changer. Good luck!!

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  55. p.s. Something I picked up on is the "supposed to" thing: supposed to just know, be friends with the FMIL, have parents be friends, have degrees, be happy with him & only him post-apocolypse, etc. You can just throw all of that out. It really comes down to such a simple thing as do you want to spend your life with him or not. Does he make you happy or feel more "alive", etc.

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  57. I am late chiming in here, as there is already a spin-off thread I see.

    However. I had a boyfriend of 3.5 years who I WAS SURE TOTALLY was the one. At least, I thought I was.

    He did sweet, symbolic things like open doors for me.

    We never fought but he rarely truly communicated his feelings, either.

    The big similarity I see between your story and mine is "The last time we went to visit my parents, he read the paper all through lunch instead of engaging them in conversation." Mine would do the same damn thing.

    And then one day, with no warning as I was about to drive three hours out of town to visit two friends who were visiting internationally, and he just dropped the bomb on me. Broke up with me through charades - actually he got up, kept crying, and made me guess at what he was crying about. We'd just moved in together, and he was out by the time I got back that weekend.

    (tbc...)

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  58. ...I moved on. I was upset, bitter, and am still scarred from that time in my life.

    However. I am now engaged to a wonderful, brilliant man who popped the question after 8 months, to my complete surprise, because "it just felt right." We have lived together a year now, and we've even discussed what would happen if we broke up. In his mind, the only situation under which that would occur would be after interventions, multiple therapies, couples therapy, and every last resort was exercised. When we moved in it took me a long time to get over my prior-relationship-induced fear of cutting & running, but happy days are ahead, I am sure.

    Save yourself the trouble. Cut your losses. Figure it out. But don't do the same to him that Shit for Brains did to me. As Liz Lemon would say, "Talk it out before you walk it out."

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  59. I don't know about the "can you imagine life without him" bit either, though. I mean, I've got an imagination, that just doesn't work. Also, I thought I couldn't imagine life without my ex, but heyyyy, I've got it, it's pretty great.

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  60. I think it's a bit hasty and offensive for people to dogmatically claim that the "you just know" is bullshit. How can you claim authoritatively that you know what someone else's experience is with a "you just know" ephiphony?

    I used to find myself more in the camp of people who doubted the "you just know" phenomenon but I was open minded and believed it probably did happen to others (in the same way that religious/ spiritual encounters happen for many people). But I was 99% sure it would/ could never happen for me. I am definitely one of those people who overthink/ obsess/ overanalyze everything. To put it lightly... I overanalyze things more than anyone I've ever met (not an understatement) and I hang out with some of the most intellectual, introspective, deep and analytical people around.

    And...although I don't know how it will all turn out...I believe I have experienced a "you just know" epiphony. It might turn out to be wrong because it's so early but I can tell you this... it is true that (for those to whom it happens) YOU JUST KNOW. This thought just popped into my head and there was no questioning it. It was a matter-of-fact thing- like it's going to happen with or without me (as if that's possible!). And it wasn't all giddy, girly and emotional...it was just like I had learned a new scientific fact and was like "oh...that's cool. now I know how that works."

    I hope this helps. I'm certainly not saying that these ephiphonies happen to everyone and who knows- maybe mine is BS (believe me- I'm obsessing and overanalyzing that too!) but it's unlike any experience I've ever had and I am proof that these things can happen to those who least expect it and who are least likely to believe it.

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  61. Starting law school definitely adds a layer of stress but if you're with someone who is your partner in life then you will get through it together.

    Although - now that I'm thinking about it - law school (or any stressful event) often triggers breakups if breakups are meant to be because they push couples to their breaking point. My boyfriend and I actually broke up during my second year of law school and we had had a solid relationship for several years prior. But this doesn't have to necessarily scare you- there were always doubts in our minds about whether we were supposed to be together. We were good together in many ways and similar to you- we couldn't imagine life without the other. And we could've probably made it work for a long time. But I think we knew something was missing.

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  62. I think the esb's 'advice' is cold and potentially disastrous for a woman who clearly has issues with anxiety/obsessive thinking. Her THINKING (and consequent writing) does not in any way mean she does not love this man and want to marry him (when she feels ready).

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  63. Everyone tries to pretend they have the perfect relationship and tell you this and that to look for in a partner. I think it is BS. Every relationship has its goods and bads. Even the most perfect guy will give you BS ..you just have to decide if they are worth it. ..as far as the examples you mentioned ..i think these are really fixable problems ..just talk to your boyfriend about them ...

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